Category Archives: Cool AT

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“Let’s get Human” …an iOS App review

Have you ever tried to make a transaction online and you just couldn’t get all your questions answered and you desperately wanted to speak with a human being? Or have you had trouble using a particular website and you wanted to find a customer service phone number so that you could make a purchase but couldn’t find the contact information? Well, thanks to www.applevis.com, I discovered that there’s an app for that. The app is called GetHuman, and it’s available from the iTunes store. You can also access the same information from their website www.gethuman.com.

I particularly like to use the iOS version of this app, because I find it to be completely accessible and easy to use. This is particularly important because when you reach a point where your stress level is off the charts, the last thing you want to do is have to deal with accessibility issues of an app that is supposed to assist you in your efforts to get assistance.

While it is true that this app has not been updated recently, it works well, and the information it contains appears to be up to date. I am using the most recent version of iOS which is 9.2.1 on an iPhone 6, and I am using VoiceOver to access and read the screen.

This review is based on the iOS version, with use of Voice Over technology. A sighted user would be likely to have a different user experience.

  • Step #1: When you first open the app, you will discover two buttons that, when pressed, do nothing and are not labelled meaningfully. Please do not despair. These buttons are just decorative. One swipe to the right lands you on an edit field where you enter the company’s name for which you are searching. You can use any method to enter text. All methods for entering text will work. I have found that, for me, dictation did not work as well as other methods, such as using a Braille display or on screen keyboard. I recommend entering the information in the search edit field unless you have way too much time on your hands. There are over 11,000 entries. However, if you are curious and enjoy finding out about businesses you may have never encountered, you can swipe through the list.
  • Step #2: Once you have found your company’s entry, a swipe to the right lands you on a “share” button. Not only can you share the information, but you can assign to a contact. So, you can create a contact with this information for the next time you wish to use it.
  • Step #3: You will find an explanatory area telling you to tap to choose your preferred contact method. A swipe to the right lands you on a button which is not labeled, but fear not. Here’s why. In this app, swiping to the right of the unlabeled button will give you the information you need. For example, after the unlabeled button, you will immediately encounter the phone number for the company you are searching. Tapping either the unlabeled button or the phone number will call the phone number using your iPhone. Next, you will find out the average amount of time you will have to wait for your call to be answered. Then the app will tell you how to avoid the “phone tree” in order to actually reach a human, avoiding the menu options.
    There is an option to “call me back” which can be helpful in those situations where you may wait for a long time before your call is answered. The call back is free – at least I have not encountered any charge when using this feature.
  • Step #4: You will encounter another unlabeled button with an e-mail address to the right of it, if an e-mail address is available. Then, you will find recent reviews of the company’s customer service. Tapping on the individual reviews will expand them. I have not found these reviews to be particularly helpful, since these interactions are by their very nature individualistic. Next, you will reach another button. Swiping to its right will let you know that you can obtain the company’s full profile by going to www.gethuman.com. Tapping that button will take you there.

I really enjoy using this app because it can be a true time saver. I also recommend that you visit the website www.gethuman.com to find out more about GetHuman, LLC’s philosophy and history. So, let your fingers do the walking, and you do the talking with GetHuman.

Holiday Shopping the Easy Way with Suzanne Erb

Are you tired even before you start thinking about shopping for the holidays? Are you looking for ways to find those stocking stuffers without fighting the crowds, looking for parking, waiting for your ride, or you just don’t have time to do all that running around? Well, I’m here to tell you that I hardly do any running around during the holiday season, unless it involves music making and/or partying. I’ve collected a few tips and tricks that have made my shopping for the holiday season less stressful, and hopefully hassle free, and I hope they will help you, too.

How do I do it? I never have to leave my couch. I go online and save! Not only do I save on transportation costs, but I sometimes save on shipping, too.

Since I shop on line, and do not have the ability to look at the pictures, I make it my business to read all the fine print, particularly as it pertains to return policies, shipping charges, product description and reviews. I make sure to keep all those e-mail invoices, receipts and shipping confirmations I receive so that I will have a record of all my transactions. This enables people to return merchandise more easily should the need arise. I also try to find a telephone number in case I need to speak to a real person.

I prefer spending my money at stores that make sure that their websites are easy to navigate because I like to let them know that I appreciate their effort to make their sites disability friendly. If navigating the site is problematic, but I know that this website has specific items that I want to buy, I will try to find a phone number, if possible. Otherwise, I just close the page and move on.

There are many major chains that have made great strides in their efforts to offer blind-friendly websites. Many of them offer apps for smart phones that are easy to navigate and use. “Say Shopping” is an IOS app that is a great iPhone app that is good for people who are not good at spelling. Using your microphone, you can converse with the app and find products. It currently features products available through Target. In the November issue of Access WORLD, published by the American Foundation for the Blind, there is an article entitled “Holiday Shopping Using Your iOS Device” by Janet Ingber. This article is a review of two shopping apps that are completely accessible – the Apple Store app, and the Amazon app. She also reviews “RetialMeNot”, which is not a store; rather, it is an app that provides promo codes, coupons, and much more. Check out the article at the link below.
http://afb.us11.list-manage.com/track/click?u=bd3c8fefc9f905f5ccf41c577&id=e856797f9a&e=6ec4032e1b

In addition to the main chain stores and websites with which most people are familiar, there are companies that are somewhat off the beaten track for people outside of the blind community, but offer quality products at reasonable prices. These are companies owned and/or operated by people with disabilities who are entrepreneurs. While some of them may include the word “blind” in their name, they all sell products that are designed to meet everyone’s needs. It’s nice to be able to support one of our own, and it puts my “employment first” money where my mouth is.

blindmicemegamall.com” is a company featuring several stores in one large, accessible website. You can find everything from electronics to household items, books, jewelry, and more – a virtual “mall” that’s only a few keystrokes or clicks away. You won’t get lost at www.blindmicemegamall.com.

The AT Guys is a great place to find reasonably priced Blindness and Deaf-Blindness products. But don’t be fooled by the name. They have lots of items such as keyboards, headphones, speakers, and other accessories for the cheap geek in all of us. Their free app, available for both Apple and Android devices, called Blind Bargains, shows not only their bargains, but also other sites offering other bargains, as well. There is also a classified section, an audio section where you can find their podcasts, and a news section where you will find important AT news you can use, particularly if you are interested in AT used by people with print disabilities. Visit www.blindbargains.com.

Blind Alive is a company that specializes in wellness products for everyone by providing both verbal and video instructions for their workouts. They offer other products, too, including a special backpack that doesn’t put strain on your back muscles. For all of us who want to be healthy visit www.blindalive.com and feel good about yourself.

By no means has this been an exhaustive list of accessible shopping websites. I encourage you to Google stores you like and see whether their websites meet your needs. I encourage those of you who do not need to use accessible websites also to support companies that make their websites user friendly for all. Let them know you appreciate their effort. I wish all of you a joyful and accessible shopping holiday season!

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Assistive Technology, Accommodations, and Employment – “It’s All About the Little Things!”

It's the little things

“It’s the little things.”

 We hear time & time again… it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference… or at least, as of late, this is all ringing true for those who are in my professional & personal life.
I had the opportunity to hear of the success a particular person has been having & experiencing while interning with an area business… his name has been changed, but the story is the same. His job coach led off the story with, “It’s all about the little things…”
Michael had a real knack for information & researching where & how to find out information… & enjoys sharing his know-how & knowledge with others. Michael also discovered a real interest in using computers & is excited & motivated to learn more about them & all the ways he can use them. Researching addresses to send fan mail to his favorite celebrities got him started…
He also doesn’t like being on his feet for a long period of time. He tells us, “I’m not as young as I used to be.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? We’re not all spring chickens anymore. He also doesn’t like to be hot. Hot work environments are not his cup of tea. I can’t say I blame him.
His supporters, employment specialist, & job coach were hearing all of this & keeping good notes.
His job coach said, “It’s all about the little things…” Michael needs the room temperature to be (at least) 73 degrees. 74 degrees won’t work (they tried!). If Michael had it his way, his office would be in a meat locker. No lie. He needs a comfortable chair, a dedicated & quiet work area, & a place to keep his lunch cold.
He was previously attending, regularly, a sheltered workshop. While there, he stopped keeping his lunch in the refrigerator. A few times someone took his soda, or lunch. He didn’t like having that happen, so he kept his lunch in his thermal bag with him. The thermal bag only keeps things cool for so long. By the time lunch rolled around, his would be warm. He wouldn’t eat all of his lunch most days (or sometimes not at all). He’d be tired. He wasn’t eating a good lunch. It needed to be cold. Now? He has a cold lunch. He eats all of his lunch… & happily.
Now, he’s very productive. Really productive & motivated. Really motivated. He doesn’t want to leave at the end of his time interning that day. What did it take? Doing something he likes doing, doing something that is meaningful for him. Having a comfortable chair, a cold lunch, & a quiet & cool work environment.
Remarkable.
Or is it?
What are some of the things you need to be successful on the job?